by Jan Dixon
Special to The Leaven
LEAVENWORTH — Kansas students who once considered a private college education to be cost-prohibitive will be offered a unique opportunity this fall through the new De Paul Scholar program at the University of Saint Mary here.
The new program, believes Sister Diane Steele, the president of the university, reflects their founder’s mission in a unique way.
The university, like the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, is based on the charism of St. Vincent de Paul, a French priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor.
“For Vincent,” explained Sister Diane, “it was about liberating people. Changing things systematically. Educating a person in order to break their cycle of poverty.”
“Catholic education should be provided according to your desire to learn, not according to your pocketbook,” she continued. “We have created the new De Paul Scholar program to meet this need.”
USM has always been about meeting needs. According to Sister Diane, the Sisters of Charity originally came to this country with the intention of serving the Native Americans, but discovered a greater need — health care and education. So that is what the Sisters provided.
They have continued to discern and meet the needs of God’s people over the years, always asking: Who needs us now?
This time, the answer was clear.
“There is a segment of students out there who really need a Saint Mary education,” said Sister Diane. “We think we can help them break their cycle of poverty. We can empower them to be productive citizens.”
The De Paul Scholar program will be piloted for incoming freshmen who are Kansas residents. A student must be a full Pell student (demonstrated high need) with a high school GPA of 2.5 or better and an ACT composite score of 18 or better.
“A lot of students do not consider an institution like ours because of the sticker price,” said John Shultz, director for marketing and admissions at USM. “The De Paul Scholar program will drive the cost down for high-need students.”
After federal and state aid packages are applied, the De Paul program will cover all remaining tuition costs. If a student chooses to live on campus, their room cost will also be covered. Out-of-pocket expenses for the student will be minimal, as they will only include textbooks and an optional meal plan.
The grant is renewable for all four years for students who maintain good academic standing.
“This is available and is a viable option,” said Shultz. “It is a very, very good deal for a private education.”
The De Paul Scholar program is being piloted in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism.
“We are proud to carry on the Vincentian heritage and to serve all of God’s people,” said Sister Diane.